THE HATZI KADDISH
Steven G. Margolin
ALEPH Cantorial Student
Congregation Beth Israel of Chico
The Hatzi Kaddish, or “Half” Kaddish, is a prayer used in the matbeah shel tefillah (the formal order of prayers) as a transition from one section of prayer to another. It is an old prayer, written in Aramaic.
Hatzi Kaddish begins, as do all versions of Kaddish, with the words יִתְגַּדַּל וְיִתְקַדַּשׁ שְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא Yitgadal veyitkadash shemey raba, Let God’s name be made great and holy …. Clearly this a prayer of praise. It speaks of creation and sovereignty, using variations of the word “olam” in both the sense of the world or the universe and the sense of endless time.
Some say that the main point of the Kaddish prayer is to give the community of prayers the opportunity to say the response line: לְעָלַם וּלְעָלְמֵי עָלְמַיָּא יְהֵא שְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא מְבָרַךְ Yehey shemey raba mevarach le’alam ulalmey almaya, May God’s great name be blessed, forever and as long as worlds endure.
The melody of the Hatzi Kaddish, as is the case with so many other prayer melodies, varies with the day of the week (Sabbath or not), the time of day (morning, afternoon or evening prayer), the day of the year (High Holiday, for example) and where in the service the Hatzi Kaddish is prayed.
You can find the whole Hatzi Kaddish in a number of places in our Kol Haneshamah siddur, for example on pages 86 and 87.
Here is an interpretive version (not a literal translation) of the Hatzi Kaddish that I composed for one of my courses in my cantorial training.
HATZI KADDISH TWO
Say that the One is great and holy.
One vast and wholly other,
In Olam created by will or word.
Are we talking space?
A waltz galactic, and as well whatever it is that gluons do.
Or is this about time?
From before was was, and also now,
Until what will be is over.
Might great and holy be so un-other
That the One is in every part of
That which I perceive as me?
Either way, help me pile on praises,
And let us say “Amen”.